University of Southern California

USC Marshall Team Places Second in World's Largest International Case Competition
February 26, 2007 • by News at Marshall

Four undergraduate seniors from the USC Marshall School of Business placed second at the Marshall International Case Competition, the world's largest and most prestigious undergraduate case competition.

The competition, in its eighth year at Marshall, attracted student teams from 29 of the world's top business schools who gathered to tackle a strategic business problem for Target: determining which international markets Target should enter next and why.

USC seniors Aaron Apodaca, Dan Calpin, Aigerim Duiseneyeva and Angela Shockley competed against teams from five other business schools in the first round and six more in the final round. Their "Limitless Solutions" presentation argued that the company should consider opening stores in Russia and Japan.

The students had 24 hours to research, analyze, strategize and create a presentation for a panel of judges that included top executives from Target and several other companies, as well as business-school professors.

"I was thoroughly impressed with the ideas, logic and creativity the students presented," said Mark Hasting, a Target group vice president and competition judge. "I had high expectations and I wasn't disappointed " not only were the students poised and confident, they knew their facts and were able to think and speak on their feet like 20-year veterans."

The winning school was the University of Texas McCombs School of Business. The University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business and The Ohio State University Fisher School of Business tied for third.

Among the top-ranking international institutions in the competition were Corvinus University of Budapest, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University in the Netherlands, Thammasat University in Thailand and University of Navarra in Spain.

Target, Honeywell and the USC Marshall School of Business sponsored the competition, which took place in Popovich and Hoffman halls on the University Park campus. The final round of competition was held on Feb. 17.

The Marshall competition is unique and particularly challenging because cases are prepared specifically for the gathering, said Michael Coombs, a Marshall assistant professor of management and organization who has written the cases for the past four years.

"The cases are new and fresh, they're not something you're going to find anywhere else," Coombs said.

Case competitions such as the Marshall International can be fierce. To prepare, participating schools drill their teams in tutorial and classroom environments so they can compete in the competitions' pressure-filled, high-profile environment.

"We put together a course to present things early in the curriculum that will help them go through their classes as well as through competitions," said Coombs, part of the team teaching The Art of Case Analysis and Persuasion with management communications Professor Donna Miles.

"They come back [from the competition] and say that, without a doubt, this is the best academic experience they've had, because they're getting amazing academic and real-world experience," Miles said. "We couldn't be more proud of this year's team. They were outstanding."

Marshall team member Angela Shockley, who will join GE Healthcare in sales after graduation this spring, said the entire process of preparing and then competing in the Marshall Case helped sharpen skills she'll use throughout her career.

"One of the greatest things I've learned through competing is how to take a complex and open-ended process and break it down," she said. "One of the greatest things I'm going to take with me is this type of thought organization. No situation I've experienced has had higher pressure. These are 24 hours you love to hate, but when you're done you have such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment."

Along with intense competition, the event also offered students a chance to mingle and network during a team-building scavenger hunt at Universal CityWalk on Wednesday and an exploratory trip to four Los Angeles-area Target stores on Thursday.

About USC Marshall School of Business
USC's Marshall School of Business provides the foundation for a process of lifetime learning and business practice. Both U.S. News & World Report and BusinessWeek rank Marshall's programs among the top 30. For more than 80 years, Marshall has provided world-class research and scholarship, preparing students for the future of business. Marshall, with its many research centers and the Leventhal School of Accounting, focuses on a core set of skills and on strengthening its position as a global center of business education and research at the graduate, undergraduate and executive levels.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.